Home » 2022 » October

Monthly Archives: October 2022

Other Guides for SBL 2022

Olegs Andrejevs has noted the sessions in the SBL Annual Meeting Unit “Interrelation of the Gospels.” Tony Burke has compiled two lists of SBL sessions and books on the study of Christian apocryphal literature. Nijay Gupta shared his conference schedule and gives advice for first-time participants. Lionel J. Windsor shared his abstracts for his two SBL papers. J. Richard Middleton notes the SBL panel on his book Abraham’s Silence. If anyone else is posted what sessions they are planning to attend, I will add the link here.


My Tentative Schedule for SBL 2022 in Denver

I plan to go to the following sessions at SBL and the program book is available online if you want to look up the abstracts:

First, I am on the panel for the Interrelations of the Gospels/New Testament Textual Criticism joint session on Saturday from 9:00-11:30 am. The abstract that I submitted focuses more on source criticism than textual criticism, but I will discuss some textual variants that are reproduced in the Gospel of the Ebionites such as the reading “you are my beloved son, today I have begotten you” in Luke 3:22 or the insertion of the light from heaven between Matthew 3:15-16. Then, I plan to attend the Historical Jesus session on the question of whether the so-called “Third Quest” is over from 4-6:30 pm. My former PhD advisor is presiding over that session and I tend to agree with him that the division of historical Jesus research into various quests does not accurately reflect the scholarship going on in various periods.

On Sunday, I will attend Michael Zeddies paper “More Misunderstanding about Mar Saba 65” for the Christian Apocrypha Session in the morning. Zeddies has written a few articles arguing that Origen is the author of this letter and I have written an article that partly interacts with its portrayal of Carpocrates. I have updated my e-Clavis Christian Apocrypha bibliography on this letter to note the contributions to the debate over the authenticity of this text by Litwa, Adamson, and Landau and Smith. I want to attend John Van Maaren’s paper on “Mark: Interpreting Paul within Judaism” for the Pauline Epistles session in the afternoon, since I am a fan of his work on Mark’s attitude towards the Torah (see here and here) but I have contested the link between Paul and Mark in this article. Moreover, though I have learned much from the scholars in the “Paul within Judaism” school, I am less sure than they are that Paul remained Torah-observant or believed that it was mandatory for the Jewish Christ followers in his own congregations to do so. I may also see if I can drop in on the panel reviewing Robyn Walsh’s book The Origins of Christian Literature, which reaches quite different conclusions than my own on the genre and audiences of the Gospels and their use of earlier oral and written traditions. Finally, I will try to catch Mark Goodacre’s paper in “The Beloved Disciple for Readers of the Synoptics”, which again reaches the completely opposite verdict that I did in my book with regards to whether the fourth Gospel identifies the beloved disciple as John, the son of Zebedee (see also his podcast).

On Monday, I am divided on whether I want to catch the “John within Judaism” session or the Q session in the morning. I would like to see how the panellists deal exegetically, theologically, and ethically with John’s portrayal of “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi), which I have also looked at in my review of a book on Raymond Brown’s scholarship, but there are some papers that I really want to listen to in the other session (especially since James McGrath and I are both giving papers on narratives about John the Baptist). In the afternoon, I will pop over to the “Bible, Myth, and Myth Theory” Session to listen to Rob Heaton’s paper entitled “Authentic Quotation, On-the-Fly Invention, or One Version of a Pan-Patristic Legend? Epiphanius and the So-Called Gospel of the Ebionites.” I will be interested to hear his case that Epiphanius may have invented this document. This conclusion challenges the minority of scholars who think that Epiphanius was citing the Gospel according to the Hebrews (cf. Alfred Schmidtke, R. A. Pritz, William L. Petersen, P. L. Schmidt, Pier Franco Beatrice, James R. Edwards, and David R. Sloan), which Edwin Broadhead and Jeremiah Coogan have recently understood to be a varying recension of Matthew, and the majority who consider it to be a separate Greek text that harmonizes the Synoptics at points and has affinities with the pseudo-Clementine literature (see my e-Clavis Christian Apocrypha bibliography).

Finally, I am again on a panel for the Matthew session where I will present my theory about why Matthew is seated at the toll booth in the Gospel of Matthew, when Levi was sitting there in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. I suspect that most people will have gone home by this point in the conference. Anyways, this is my tentative schedule. However, I may rather end up going to touristy destinations with my family in Denver and visiting with friends in the book exhibit hall and at the various receptions, so my schedule may look very different when I get there!

Papers at the SBL 2022 Conference in Denver

I previously wrote about what I was presenting at the SBL conference in Denver, but here is an update which includes the times and locations of the sessions:


Interrelations of the Gospels / New Testament Textual Criticism
Joint Session With: New Testament Textual Criticism, Interrelations of the Gospels
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Mile High 1E (Lower Level) – Convention Center (CC)
Theme: Textual Criticism and the Interrelations of the Gospels
Elizabeth Schrader, Duke University, Presiding

David B. Sloan, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Western Non-interpolations and the Interrelations of the Gospels (20 min)
Tag(s): Text Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Source Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Timothy B. Sailors, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen
Divergent Readings in Gospel Texts: Difficulties in Distinguishing between Redaction-Critical and Text-Critical Alterations (20 min)
Tag(s): Redaction Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Text Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Michael J. Kok, Morling College Perth
The Gospel of the Ebionites and the Synoptic Gospels (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels (Early Christian Literature – Apocrypha), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Gregory M. King, Universität Wien; Campus Danubia
The Fourth Gospel as Source and Recipient of Harmonization in the Four-Gospel Tradition: John 1:27 as Test Case of a Scribal Habit (20 min)
Tag(s): Text Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Scribes (Epigraphy & Paleography), Gospels – John (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Roundtable Discussion (30 min)
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Centennial C (Third Level) – Hyatt Regency (HR)
Theme: Matthew and the Historical Jesus

Nathan C. Johnson, University of Indianapolis
Jesus and the Other Messiahs in the Memory of Matthew (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Social-Scientific Approaches (Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology) (Interpretive Approaches), Historical Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Michael Barber, Augustine Institute Graduate School
Rethinking the Use of the Gospel of Matthew in Jesus Studies (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Historical Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Caleb S. Cooke, Duke Divinity School
Will the Real Elijah Please Stand Up? Matthean Redaction and Social Memory (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels – Mark (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Emily Fero-Kovassy, Australian Catholic University
God the “Father in Heaven”: A Matthean Expression of Jewish Notions of God (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Michael J. Kok, Morling College Perth Campus
A Lost Source Identifying Matthew as a Toll Collector? (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Redaction Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Historical Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)


The Gospel of the Ebionites and the Synoptic Gospels

David B. Sloan and James R. Edwards have revived the antique hypothesis that there was a single “Gospel according to the Hebrews” underlying the diverse Patristic testimonies about it and that it was a significant source behind the Synoptic tradition. Specifically, Sloan and Edwards equate this reconstructed text with either Q or L, two hypothetical sources in B. H. Streeter’s classic solution to the Synoptic Problem, respectively. In this paper, I will first defend the most common scholarly view that the text known to Epiphanius which modern scholars entitle as the “Gospel of the Ebionites” should be differentiated from the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” that is initially cited by the Alexandrian Christian scholars Clement, Origen, and Didymus. The general academic consensus is that Epiphanius’s Gospel was a Greek text that, at points, harmonizes passages from the Synoptic Gospels. Second, I will focus on the baptism story in the “Gospel of the Ebionites” in order to demonstrate that it replicates Matthean and Lukan redactional elements, thus making it unlikely to be the source of the Synoptic double tradition or the Lukan Sondergut. The ways in which it expands on or omits details in the Synoptic Gospel narratives can be explicated on redaction-critical principles. The counter-proposal that one or more of the Synoptic evangelists redacted the baptism account in the “Gospel of the Ebionites” is less plausible.

A Lost Source Identifying Matthew as a Toll Collector?

Taking Markan priority as a starting point, scholars have long been puzzled by the redactional replacement of Levi the son of Alphaeus with Matthew at the toll booth near Capernaum (cf. Matt 9:9; contra Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). Richard Bauckham (2006) has demonstrated that there are no adequate contemporary parallels for a Second Temple Jewish individual to have two popular Semitic names like Levi and Matthew. It is further implausible that the Apostle Matthew was the author of either the Gospel that was named after him or one of its major sources, for the Matthean redactor evidently did not have any firsthand knowledge about how Matthew actually met Jesus, but just copied the Markan pericope about a toll collector named Levi. The Gospel was originally written anonymously rather than pseudonymously (contra Kilpatrick 1946). Other explanations for why Levi was switched for Matthew in Matt 9:9 include that the Gospel writer restricted the circle of disciples in Jesus’s lifetime to the twelve apostles (e.g., Pesch 1968), there is a wordplay between the name Matthew and the Greek noun mathētēs or “disciple” (e.g., Kiley 1984; Sonnet 2021), or the name was changed by a later scribal copyist (e.g., Bacon 1930). Building on the arguments of Bauckham (2006) and Ulrich Luz (2001), I have argued that the Matthean evangelist may have had access to a lost source that identified Matthew as a “toll collector,” so he or she borrowed the details from Mark’s chreia about Levi to narrate Matthew’s own call to discipleship (cf. Kok 2020). More specifically, the evangelist may have relied on a non-Markan list of the twelve apostles that labelled Matthew as a “toll collector” (cf. Matt 10:3) and redacted Mark 2:14 accordingly. This inherited tradition about the Apostle Matthew’s former profession stands in tension with the evangelist’s redactional Tendenz to portray toll collectors in a very negative light (cf. Matt 5:46; 18:17). The tradition may preserve a memory that would have otherwise been forgotten that one of the Twelve commissioned by the historical Jesus was a toll collector.

Endorsements for my Forthcoming Book

Endorsements have now been added for my book Tax Collector to Gospel Writer: Patristic Traditions about the Evangelist Matthew on the Fortress Press website. I have copied them below:

“Michael Kok takes readers through a fascinating piece of detective work as he seeks to answer the question of why a presumably initially untitled gospel came to be associated with the name of Matthew as its author. In exploring this question, no relevant stone is left unturned as Kok reevaluates the clues left by writers of early Christian texts, along with evidence from gospel manuscripts. The result is a highly engaging investigation and explanation of how this unnamed gospel subsequently became the gospel of Matthew.” (Paul Foster, University of Edinburgh)

“Nothing can be the last word because scholarship never stands still. But if you want the best word so far, this is your book: a meticulous, well-informed, and creative contribution on an important, truly fascinating question: How did Matthew become the author of Matthew?” (Dale C. Allison Jr, Princeton Theological Seminary)

“Already an established authority on the early reception of the Gospel of Mark, Michael J. Kok turns his attention to the contested authorship and reception of the Gospel of Matthew in From Tax Collector to Gospel Writer. With a thorough command of the wide-ranging primary sources and the latest scholarship, Kok tells a detailed and engaging story of how the canonical Gospel of Matthew and the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews came to be attributed to Matthew the tax collector. Told with erudition and aplomb, Kok’s fascinating and informative study is essential reading for anyone interested in gospel origins and their reception.” (Stephen C. Carlson, Australian Catholic University)

My Article “Justin Martyr and the Authorship of Luke’s Gospel”

My article “Justin Martyr and the Authorship of Luke’s Gospel” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 18 (2022): 9-36 has now been published. It is open-access, so you can read my article and see if you find it persuasive or not. Here is my abstract:

“Justin Martyr was aware that many Christians in his day were describing certain texts about Jesus as euangelia, though his general preference was to categorize these writings as apomnēmoneumata and attribute them to the apostles and their assistants as a collective group. He likely included the third canonical Gospel among the “memoirs of the apostles.” However, there are no indications in his writings that he had any knowledge of the ascription of this Gospel to the Evangelist Luke. He also may not have identified Paul as one of the apostles. The tradition of Lukan authorship is not attested in any sources that predate Justin’s literary activity, including the writings of Papias of Hierapolis and Marcion of Pontus. The title “Gospel according to Luke” was likely attached to the text at the same time as the emergence of the fourfold gospel canon in the latter half of the second century and the rationale that Luke was the companion of Paul in the we-sections of the book of Acts was defended by Irenaeus of Lyon.”

I cover some of the following points in the article:

  • The origins of the titular usage of the noun “gospel” and the standard Gospel titles (i.e. the Gospel according to Luke).
  • The question on whether any traditions about the Evangelist Luke predate the writings of Justin Martyr, such as whether there are fragments from Papias’s lost work that suggest that he knew the third Gospel or whether Marcion believed that the Gospel that he inherited was authored by Luke.
  • The evidence that Justin knew the third Gospel, but just identified it as one of the memoirs that he assigned to the apostles collectively.
  • The reason why the reference to the memoirs of the apostles and those who followed them (Dial. 103.8) does not mean that Justin identified the third evangelist as a follower of an apostle.

I will expand on some of these points in a forthcoming book on the Patristic traditions about the Evangelist Matthew, which will also have an updated discussion on Papias in light of Stephen Carlson’s recent work that was not available to me when I wrote this article. My goal has been to publish on the authorial traditions about all four New Testament Gospels and I hope to one day popularize my research for the person in the pews.